Seventeen lectures on the study of medieval and modern history and kindred subjects/The Reign of Henry VII. (1)
THE REIGN OF HENRY VII.
(April 24, 1883.)
MY kindest friends will hardly be able this year to charge me with having chosen the subject of my public statutory lectures with a view of attracting an audience. I never, in the course of a long historical experience, met with any one who wished to attend a second course of lectures on Henry VII, or indeed with any one who expressed any interest in him at all. It is just possible that I may be suspected of a design to attract the admirers of the lady Margaret, by advertising a discourse upon her son; but, although the idea did occur to me, I set it aside as feeling it my duty to guard against any over-sanguine expectations. No; I chose the subject because I have to lecture, and, after sixteen successive ceremonies of humiliation, I thought that I had a right to throw some part of the imputation of dulness off myself upon my subject. If the men will not come, let it be as much Henry VII's fault as mine.
Yet, to begin with, it is a curious thing that the subject should be so dull; and perhaps my first point should be to account for that. I do not question the,- fact. It is so; but why? The period is full of interest: it is the beginning of modern as distinguished from medieval history; it exhibits to us, in their first definite and specialised forms, the forces which constitute the dramatic elements of the state of society in which we are living; the great powers in their newly consolidated condition, the balance of which makes up European history ever since. It is the age of the discovery of the New World, the age of the birth of modern commerce and colonisation; it is the eve of the Reformation, and of that wonderful renaissance which I believe exists at the present day, in prize essays and schools examinations, much more vividly, and alas in much greater solid bulk than it ever had in the most flourishing days in rerum natura. And it is a period too in which we begin to have, more distinctly and more numerously than before, representative men as they are called; that is, men whose greatness and prominence consists not in their being exceptions to or protests against, or glories or shames to the age in which they lived, but in concentrating in themselves and giving force to the ideas, the accomplishments, the hopes and aspirations, the greatnesses and littlenesses of their own times. In the play of character also there should be something interesting in a period which embraces Ferdinand and Isabella the Catholic, the delightful old Frederick III, and the still more charming Maximilian; the age of Charles VIII and Philip the handsome, not to speak of the Borgias, the Medici, and the Farnesi.
Yet the reign of Henry VII is dull. Look at it in relation to English history; there also it should be important; there also it comes between the ancient and the modern; bridges over the strait between the Wars of the Roses and the Reformation, between England isolated and England taking a first place in the counsels of Europe, between England weak and England strong. The reign itself may be almost exactly divided between fifteenth century influences and sixteenth century influences; the one series winding up in final bloodshed, the other opening with initial intrigue. We are really able to trace the last links of the chain of political murders which had begun when Warwick and Lancaster slew Piers Gaveston, and which ends or almost ends with the sacrifice of Edward of Warwick and the de la Poles; and we trace the first links of the policy which grew and strengthened in intensity to the days of Waterloo.
But still it is dull: we do not much care about the effete struggles of the dynastic parties, and we cannot get up a lively interest in the negotiations for the Scottish or Spanish marriage. It is our own fault perhaps that we want more sensationalism. But there is a lack of it notwithstanding.
One reason I will shortly dismiss. I verily believe that one reason why this period is dull is that it was the period of the discovery and development of printing, and of the use of paper instead of parchment. Men began to write freely and to destroy freely; instead of writing for private purposes of record, they wrote for other men to read; they wrote not what was worth writing, but what would catch readers; they wrote what it was safe to write when every one could read; they wrote because they could write, not because there was a necessity for them to write; that is, anybody wrote, and few wrote what was worth preserving. One popular book destroyed a thousand chances of having invaluable records of timid private annals. And, when destruction began, it found paper more easy to dispose of than parchment: the age that could make tailors' measures out of Magna Carta, lighted its fires with State papers. Growing criticism, careful public administration, even before the age of destruction began, had not learned to be careful as to what should be preserved and what should be destroyed. And when the age of destruction did come, it was divided between the Roman Catholic force that destroyed everything new, and the Puritan force that destroyed everything old. So it is not so much a wonder that we have so little documentary remains of Henry VII's reign, as that we have anything at all. The only strictly contemporary account of the king's life and character is to be found in a few half-rotten, half-legible paper sheets in the Cottonian Library. All the more circumstantial parts of the history have to be worked out of the annalists of the next generation.
But there must have been a deeper cause. "Why should a king with a good character and a romantic career subside into a historical fogey? Look closely at Frederick III, the splendid old gipsy, in name governor of the world, ever august, and increaser of the empire, yet owning no more territory than an English alderman; sitting in his study elaborating a horoscope with destiny of universal dominion for his grandchildren unborn, inventing the motto of empire for an Austria that was yet in embryo: honourable, perhaps, and careless about selfish gains, but a dreamer, about whom the strange thing is that so many of his dreams came true. Look at Maximilian, the most delightfully unprincipled hero of the age of transition; always in every feast and every fray, always wanting money and selling himself for promises, and never getting the money and never keeping his engagements; a good deal of the rake and a good deal of the knight-errant; to himself a portentous politician, a reformer of Church and empire, yet willing to set Church and empire to sale, and himself to retire from the Cæsarship, to accept the chair of S. Peter, and provide before his death for his own canonization; yet with all that the founder of one of the great powers of modern history, grandfather of Charles V, and contriver of the scheme which placed half Christendom under his grandson's sceptre. I have often thought of Maximilian in contrast with Henry VII; all the balance of real goodness, what measure there is of politic honesty, purity of life, reality of character, straightforwardness in religion, intelligent appreciation of his people's needs, every moral consideration is in favour of Henry Tudor: yet we like Maximilian better. With all his undeniable faults, his absurd dishonesty which did more harm to himself than to any one else, his grotesque pretensions, the astounding inconsistency between his undertakings and his fulfilments; there is an attractiveness about him which there is not about Henry VII. We will not stay to compare him with Charles VIII or Ferdinand the Catholic; I do not know that we can care much for either, but we do care very little for Henry VII.
Yet, again, here is the uniter of the Roses, the founder of the Tudor dictatorship which steered England through the age of the Reformation, which projected and secured the union with Scotland, which started England in the race of commercial enterprise; here is the hero of romance, in whom the prophetic eye of the saintly Henry of Lancaster had seen the Joash of the British Zion; the child of exile, hunted, like David, as a partridge on the mountains; the knight-errant coming to rescue the distressed lady, as Perseus to Andromeda; the avenger of blood at Bosworth field; the Hercules of the twelve labours; who overcame the Nemean lion in Edward IV; the Erymanthian boar in Richard III; the Arcadian stag in John of Lincoln; the Cretan bull in James of Scotland; the mares of Diomedes in Martin Swart; whose hydra had been the civil wars; who had put down the Stymphalian birds by the agency of the Star Chamber; had thwarted in Margaret of York the host of the Amazons; and found the three heads of Geryon in Maximilian, the archduke Philip, and the dowager of Burgundy; who had beaten Cacus in Perkin Warbeck, and Cerberus in three still more insignificant enemies, and by overcoming Max's opposition to the French alliance had lulled the dragon and made his way into the garden of the Hesperides. It is not every Hercules who answers so precisely to the archetype.
And then think of him as the eligible parti of Europe; the young pretender of fifty looking out for a wife; thinking of the queen of Naples as very practicable, and at all events worth very minute inquiries as to teeth and stay-laces; or perhaps Margaret of Austria, who could make him arbiter of the Netherlands, and possibly of Spain; or Johanna of Castile, if she could have been consoled for the death of the archduke; or that delightful duchess of Angoulême, Louise of Savoy, the mother of Francis I, and destroyer of the Constable of Bourbon; or last, but not least, Katharine of Aragon, his own daughter-in-law, if the pope, whose conscience was elastic enough to dispense a marriage with a brother's wife, could so far stretch a point of infallibility as to connive at such a politic enormity. Well, the lady Margaret, poor thing, had four husbands, and Henry VIII had six wives; matrimony was clearly a feature in the germinating policy of the Magians of the renaissance. And then, did ever English king receive, like Henry VII, three caps and swords from three successive popes,—from Innocent VIII, Alexander VI, and Julius II? And last, but not least, Francis Bacon for a biographer! And yet we want something more!
But it is time to be serious. If it is fair to estimate the importance of a reign by the contrast which may be drawn between the two that precede and follow it, the reign of Henry VII should be regarded as one of the most important, and in some respects the most important reign in English History. But to argue thus would really be a mistake; really much of the importance that does attach to it is not its own, but arises from the general character of the age in which it fell, the criftical, transitional age, which would have been very much what it was whatever sort of king was on the throne of England.
If the points which English History has thus in common with general European History during this period be left out of consideration, both the interest and the real significance of the actual events of the history of England fall into the background. Such interest as it has becomes a dreary and commonplace interest; its dramatic action, if it can be said to have any, is extremely slow; there is little that calls for sympathy in men or institutions, and the pages of the annalist are dry and jejune to an exceptional degree. And what interest it has in the nature of personal incident, is apart from the life of the nation. With the single exception of that part of the incident which concerns the conspiracies and pretensions of the Yorkist faction, which again derives its interest from the tragedy of the preceding reign, the pages of the annalist, where there are any, are so dull that we scarcely complain of their jejuneness. We have no temptation to follow the humdrum movements of the court as we trace the military itinerary of Edward I or the judicial itinerary of Henry II; and it is by an effort that we have to remind ourselves what great things, irrespective of political events, were going on in England during these years; how it was the period of the great activity of Caxton and his early followers, the period of the foundation or development of colleges in Oxford and Cambridge, of the renewal of old studies, of the friendship of Erasmus and More; of discovery of a new world, and of unexampled development of commercial enterprise.
It is cuiious how little notice is taken of these things in the contemporary annals; they lie, for the most part, outside of the limited area that we are wont to take for constitutional history. But we do not doubt that an immense part of the life of the next age was wrapped up in these things. Certainly the invention of printing, not less than the agglomeration of the new factors of the European balance, was a starting-point of a new stage of History; and the freedoms and jealousies of commerce and conquest in the New World were factors in the new drama second only in importance to the accumulations of power and tenitory in Europe. But they are both of them events of a class which finds for contemporaries too much work to allow of much talk or many contemplative jottings. Few very busy men keep minute or accurate diaries; few very busy ages possess very picturesque or very circumstantial chronicles. The early printers and the early discoverers left material enough for the next generation to dispute about, but did little in record of their own exploits. Many navigators lived and died and perished from memory before Columbus, and even the continent which he discovered is not called by his name. The inventor of printing is still unknown, and we cannot tell when, or very distinctly where, even Caxton set up the first English press; they were too busy.
And yet more might be expected in the way of history. Caxton himself was a compiler of history; the old monasteries, like Crowland, still contained men capable of writing annals, and of combining annals into chronicles, and of drawing out of chronicles the lessons of History. There is no a priori reason why the English history of the age should be sought in Bernard Andreas of Toulouse, or in Polydore Vergil of Urbino, or from the relations of foreign ambassadors. We conclude that the really important things, in which the critical change was, were things that did not come easily into historical contemporaneous exposition. Perhaps too it was hardly safe to write history when the printing-press might diffuse it to distances that would be dangerous; kings and courts would read, and woe to those who wrote what would not please them; or perhaps the revival of ancient literature engrossed the minds of those who, without such employment, might have continued the roll of ancient scholars.
It was not history alone, but theology and science also, that languished under the sudden revival of classical learning; men lost themselves in the history of early Rome who might have told us something worth knowing about their own England; or satisfied themselves with simple attempts to write fine Latin, not troubling themselves much as to whether they had anything to say; or with pronouncing eulogistic orations fit for kings and chancellors to read. But you will be thinking that is just what I am doing now; it is too obvious that a public statutory lecture is not a labour of love.
It is clear, then, not from the distinct enunciations of the time, but from the lessons of preceding and following reigns, what England wanted, and what it got in Henry VII. England did not want to become territorially one, as France, Spain, and Germany did before the new drama of politics began. England had long been territorially one; but it required constitutional and governmental consistency. It required an equability of the execution of law, the abolition of local partisanships, the abeyance of political questionings and controversies, thorough concentration in the hands of strong kings and able ministers. Such a king Henry VII was; such a king Henry VIII was during the better part of his reign, and to some extent Elizabeth was a successor of the same kind; strong in will, strong in wealth, strong in definite personal aims, but even stronger in the way in which their absolute power could be manipulated. It wanted too such things as, first, the vindication of a dynastic title to the throne by the victory of the king over the Yorkist party, by the union of family titles in his marriage, by the securing of every possible lawful guarantee to the succession, so that there might be no more Wars of the Roses; and consequent upon this, the enriching of the crown to such an extent as to make the King almost, if not entirely, independent of taxation for purposes of ordinary expenditure: or, secondly, the humiliation of the baronage by exhaustion, impoverishment, and reduction of numbers, leaving scarcely a trace of the divisions of party between the adherents of the two Roses, extinguishing the hereditary politics of the great houses and almost extinguishing the constitutional powers of the House of Lords. The concentration of power in the hands of a royal council of nominees was another result of the abject condition of the smaller and southern nobles. Even the greatest magnates were content to serve in the council as ministers and advisers, rather than to act up to their position constitutionally as members of a great estate in parliament.
Or, thirdly, the humiliation of proper ecclesiastical independence, which resulted from the isolation of Church power in the face of the throne. The papacy, which might have lent strength to the clerical estate, was itself weak, and changing its front, becoming more of an Italian power and less of an ecumenical arbitrator and influence, just at the moment when in England the clergy alone remained united enough to withstand the royal will. The clerical estate did not at first feel what was happening to it; for Henry VII had no quarrel with it, and possibly had no design of secularising the powers that should have been, first of all, moral and spiritual: he chose his ministers from churchmen, and made bishops of his ministers; until the bishops forgot that they were anything but ministers; sadly to the depression of religion, and sadly to the depression of learning, as the revival showed when it threw the learning of the country into the party of innovation, notwithstanding the influence of such men as Morton, More, Warham, Colet, and even Wolsey. The Church was sitting at the foot of a dynasty which ere long was to kick it over and to trample on it.
And fourthly, there was the people, weary of dynastic parties and politics, and set on a new pursuit of money-making, loving peace and hating taxation, and willing to endure anything from kings who would so far humour them: not altogether content, but discontented in a way that showed that heart and treasure went together: for, true as some of the charges of financial chicanery against Henry VII are, they owe their real practical weight to the fact that the people who groaned under them were rapidly growing in acquisitive power and economic wisdom; they knew they had something worth conserving.
Thus England, with her once turbulent baronage depressed and silent, her Church kept subservient by the bestowal of political influence to the loss of religious power, her people in good humour so long as they were not overtaxed, was, under kings with determinate views, rich and ambitious, collected enough and manageable enough to enter as an efficient actor into the international drama. If she wanted leaders, guides, dictators in the coming struggle, she found them in the race which Henry VII founded and impressed with a strong will, a strong policy, and a strong energetic activity that gave her unmistakeably her place in modern history.
It would be very difficult, more difficult than in the case of a reign which has a plot, or a dramatic complexity or unity, to attempt a chronological account of the development of any principle or principles in this reign. I have said it is naturally divided into two great sections; and those two are subdivided in their turn.
I am afraid that, having spent all my generalisations in the preamble, I must in the remainder of this and the following lecture descend to the level of tabular computations, pedigrees, acts of parliament, and treaties. But we will hope for the best. As I am not aware that there is anything in the statute under which I am lecturing which makes it incumbent on me to offer on these occasions a substantive original contribution to history, I shall not apologise for taking my hearers over well known and well trodden ground.
The first point, of course, that occurs to us in a survey of the reign is the nature of Henry VII's title to the throne. On this no little controversy has been raised, and yet very trenchant opinions are given. We are not uncommonly told that Henry VII had not in his own person a shadow of hereditary right; that is a view not uncommonly taken in the schools; it is concise, and not hard to remember. But it is not exactly true. The whole question of the title of the house of Lancaster is a matter of dispute; and the title of the house of York has always, curiously enough, been a point on which extreme legitimists and extreme advocates of popular right have agreed. Edward IV was heir general of Edward III, therefore he pleases the legitimists; he came to the throne by a revolution, therefore he satisfies their extreme opponents. From a legal point of view it is different; Henry VI was the heir, in the male line of succession, of Edward III, and also, by descent from Henry IV, was heir male of a new purchaser under a new and parliamentary title. Henry VII's title was of course very debateable. With relation to Edward III, he was not heir general, for that place belonged to the daughters of Edward IV: nor was he heir in the male line of succession, because the line was broken in the person of his mother. With relation to John of Gaunt, accepting the legitimation of the Beauforts by king, pope, and parliament, he was heir general; whilst with reference to Henry IV, he can hardly be said to have been heir by collateral descent or heir at all.
But a question arises, on what analogy does the royal succession proceed. If on the analogy of a private estate, then Henry VII, as the nearest kinsman to Henry VI on the side of the purchaser Henry IV, had a claim to succeed: that claim was barred, it is said, by reason of the half-blood; and to that the answer is given that the doctrine of the half-blood, does not affect the royal succession. If, on the other hand, we take for analogy the descent of peerages limited to heirs male, there can be no question that the Earl of Warwick was the right heir through the line of York, irrespective of the line of Clarence; but Warwick's claim and that of all the line of York was crossed by attainder: so also was the claim of Lancaster.
Well, all this argument serves not to prove that Henry VII had a hereditary claim, but to explain what he meant when he said he had. And, although not very important, it is as well to try to understand it. In truth, the law of royal succession, except where it has been settled by parliament, has never been very certain. Mary I and Elizabeth were akin by the half-blood only to Edward VI, yet they claimed hereditary right: disputable, perhaps, in itself, that position was strengthened by Henry VIII's will and acts of settlement. But Edward VI's will was set aside, and, although conflicting opinions did conflict, the crown descended in the natural and legal order to James I. There can, I think, be no doubt that Henry VII was legitimately Duke of Lancaster, if we suppose that such a title could pass through a female, notwithstanding the half-blood. It is quite possible to maintain that he was king of England by hereditary right.
Anyhow, he said he was. In his first address to the collected parliament, Nov. 9, 1485, he declared that he had come to the crown by just title of inheritance, and by the true judgment of God in giving him the victory over his enemy: the parliament accepted the fact, and passed a statute, in avoiding all ambiguities and questionings, ordaining, establishing, and enacting that the inheritance of the crowns of England and France, and so on, be, rest and remain, in the person of our now sovereign lord and in the heirs of his body. You may think that this was enough, but the pope clenched the matter in a bull of March 27, 1486, declaring that Henry was king not only by the right of war, and by the notorious and undoubted nearest title of succession, but also by the choice and vote of all the prelates, peers, magnates, nobles, and of the whole realm of England, and by ordinance, decree, and statute of the three estates of the realm called the parliament, for this purpose publicly and generally held. Perhaps the good old man swore a little too hard; the accumulation of reasons may show that Innocent VIII had some misgiving.
Trebly certain, however, as all this was, by a scale of verdicts rising from the king's own assertion, to the parliament, to the pope, and to the judgment of the Almighty, the king would make assurance doubly sure by marrying the equally undoubted heiress of the rival line. He was espoused to Elizabeth of York on the 18th of January, 1486. He had not waited for her to be crowned with him; he himself had been crowned on the 30th of October: and he was in no great hurry to admit her to a share of his dignity. She was not crowned until the 25th of November, 1487, and a great deal had happened in the meantime. I am not sure that the marriage was a very happy one. A priori, there was no reason why it should, although I believe it is certain that husband and wife were faithful. But Elizabeth was a silly woman, and Henry was not a sympathetic man. It was said she would have married her uncle, and certainly her marriage with Henry was a marriage of convenience. Their family politics must have been very much opposed; that is if we suppose them to have had any family affections at all, which is rather a strong effort to suppose in the case of kings and queens in the fifteenth century. But it is still more certain that they both had mothers alive, and there would be, according to all analogies, no love lost. Henry was an affectionate and obedient son to a pious and noble mother: Elizabeth had a mother who had not much sense or discretion, and was constantly in disgrace. The lady Margaret was strict and stately, and a woman of great experience, of many husbands and good advisers: the queen dowager may have learned, in the romantic seclusion to which her son-in-law consigned her, some lessons that would counteract the influences of the court in which she had reigned during her false, fair husband's lifetime, and she may have profited by the sweet uses of adversity; but she inherited the characteristic features of her mother Jacquetta, and her own early career was one of vanity and foolish ambition. Any how, the lady Margaret had the upper hand; she kept her son straight and the court fairly pure, both during his wife's life and after her death, when the discipline was so close that poor Katharine of Aragon had to write home to her father that she could not get a mouthful of meat in Lent.
The history of the first half of the reign is the story of the struggle with which this trebly attested title to the throne was maintained; a bloody story, it is true, but, take it all in all, scarcely to be compared with what goes before and follows. The struggle is not altogether dynastic; it is not in all its details a contest of competitors; and, in fact, each of the incidents in it has a shade of its own, common as the colouring seems at a distance. There were dynastic rivalries, there were personal intrigues and party blood feuds that made use of the dynastic rivalries to secure their victory or revenge, and there were administrative difficulties emerging in discontents which had little to do with either dynastic or hereditary struggles, but lent aid to both and borrowed pretext from both.
It is hardly necessary for me perhaps to recall to your minds what roots of dynastic bitterness still subsisted: but for the sake of clearness I will enumerate them. There was the Dowager Margaret of Burgundy, ready to say or do or believe anything for the sake of revenge; there was the son of Clarence, a prisoner in the king's hands; there were the De la Poles, the five sons of John, Duke of Suffolk, by Elizabeth of York, the eldest of whom had been recognised by Richard III as his presumptive heir; and there was the doubt that hung over the death of Edward V and his brother Richard. It is curious to trace the intertwining of these really incompatible and inconsistent interests, and yet the only conclusion at which we can fairly arrive is the utterly desperate and unprincipled character of the Yorkist intrigues.
The first rising is perhaps the most desperate; in April 1486 the Viscount Lovel, and Humfrey and Thomas Stafford, rose in Worcestershire; the king, as Bacon tells us, thought it a mere rag of Bosworth: although at one time it seemed to be becoming formidable, it collapsed before the king's offer of pardon. Lovel escaped to the Duchess Margaret, Humfrey Stafford was executed, and Thomas was pardoned. "Whether the original motive of the rising was the despair of the attainted leaders, or an intrigue of the as yet unreconciled Yorkist remnant, it is, by the agency of Lord Lovel, linked on with the second rising, that of 1487, in the name of Lambert Simnel. The idea of dethroning the new king by setting up as claimant a person, who pretended to be another person, who was well known to be a prisoner in the king's hands, is not only desperate but unprincipled, and, if I can say it without offence, not only unprincipled and desperate, but Irish. Lambert Simnel, a boy of twelve years old, the son of an organ-maker at Oxford, educated by a clever priest named Symonds, a name still known here, was presented to the world as Edward Earl of Warwick; was received in Ireland in February 1487, crowned at Dublin in May, brought to England in June, and taken prisoner at Stoke near Newark on the 1 6th of that month. In this most extravagant imposture the Yorkist remnant was thoroughly implicated: the Duchess Margaret was represented by Martin Swart and his men; the Earl of Lincoln, the cousin of Warwick, was slain fighting for Simnel; the Lord Lovel, 'the dog' minister of Richard, disappeared on the field, and Henry's suspicions were so strongly excited against his mother-in-law that he had to send her to a nunnery, and her son Lord Dorset to the Tower. The third rising, that in Yorkshire in 1489, was not directly connected with the dynastic quarrel, but was provoked by the taxation voted in the preceding parliament: Egremont, however, the leader of the rioters who killed the Earl of Northumberland at Thirsk, was a Yorkist partisan, and found a refuge in his exile with the intransigent Duchess of Burgundy. After this we get on for three years without overt trouble. The year 149a is marked by another Yorkshire battle, that of Acworth, between the Earl of Surrey and certain rebels, whose occasion of rising is not known; and it would therefore be of little use to argue whether or no it was connected with the imminent conspiracy for Perkin Warbeck, or a result of local discontent of which there may have been other eases not recorded at all.
Next comes the grand episode or tragedy of Perkin, which covers seven years of disturbance, and connects the Yorkist intrigues with the social discontents in a way more striking than any of the previous outbursts. I will only just indicate the dates and points of contact. Perkin, whose prompters, wiser than Lambert Simnel's, identified him with a claimant who could be more easily counterfeited, and who is said to have been educated by the Duchess Margaret to appear as her nephew Richard of York, lands at Cork probably in 1491, certainly by February 1492. According to Bacon, he himself was not at first quite sure who he was, a sort of doubt that has affected the minds of his adherents ever since; but, if there was any hesitation on his part, it must have been assumed for the purpose of ascertaining under what title he would be most likely to make a good start. After having exhibited himself for some time in Ireland and France without much affecting the political feeling of England, he returned to Flanders in August 1493, and his supporters for a while had to content themselves with intrigue. So thoroughly, however, was the scheme worked, that in 1494 the Yorkist lords in England sent over Sir Robert Clifford to ascertain the truth of the story that was put in Perkin's mouth; and Clifford, after having familiarised himself with the conditions of the party at home, was brought over to the king's side, turned against his employers and gave up their names to the government. Several of these were of the old Yorkist connexion, and were executed in the autumn of 1494; the greatest victim, however, was Sir William Stanley the chamberlain, brother of the lady Margaret's husband, the Earl of Derby, and one of the most able of the adherents who had placed Henry of Richmond on the throne. He had, from some idea apparently that his own services were ill requited, entangled himself in the plot, and, although he must have been undeceived' as to the identity of the impostor, was not therefore spared; he perished in February 1495.
The increasing severity of the king's proceedings, and the success of his counter intrigues, thus warned the rest of the plotters that no time must be lost. In July of this year Perkin attempted a landing at Sandwich; this failing, he went again to Ireland, and then to Scotland, where he obtained full recognition and a noble wife. Henry was now pursuing the course which Edward IV had adopted with regard to himself in his boyhood, and endeavouring to obtain by diplomatic agencies the expulsion of the claimant from the territories of the neighbour princes. Early in 1496 he concluded a treaty with Burgundy, which forbade the entertainment of Perkin there; and in 1497, on the approach of a peace with Scotland, he negotiated for his surrender. The king of Scots, who in November 1496 had made a raid into the north in his behalf, was still prepared to support him and refused to betray him; but he thought it best to be rid of him: sent him to Ireland in July, and, after another invasion and defeat, concluded in September a truce for seven years, with which any overt support of the Pretender would have been incompatible.
Before the truce was actually signed Perkin's career was over. In its last act the plot connects itself with the social discontent. In the January parliament a new subsidy had been voted, and this, when it came to be collected, provoked a rising in Cornwall. The men of Cornwall rose under the local hero Flammock, who, declaring the law on his side, and insisting on delivering a petition to the king, started them for London. Picking up as their leader a disaffected nobleman. Lord Audley, on the way, they pushed on to Blackheath, where they were defeated with great loss on the 22nd of June. The king's severity was somewhat arbitrary, but the effect was to quicken Perkin's movements and to point to the part of England where he was most likely to win support. He landed near Penzance in September, pushed to Taunton where he was put to flight, took sanctuary at Beaulieu, and on the 5th of October was surrendered to the king. Henry was inclined to spare him, possibly having some doubt as to his real identity; he was however imprisoned, and his escape in June 1498, his recapture, and further involvement in the plot which was made an excuse for implicating the Earl of Warwick, ended in the execution of the two in November 1499: a cruelty for which other motives and other influences besides the sense of actual danger, are probably accountable.
After the extinction of these two, the false and the true competitors, the king had only the De la Poles to doubt about. The eldest of these, Edmund, who after his brother's death at Stoke had been the head of the branch, and who after his father's death in 1491 had been allowed to surrender his estate of Duke and subside into Earl of Suffolk, quitted England with his brother Richard, in August 1501. What intelligence they may have had of the means by which Ferdinand the Catholic was likely to insure the succession of his son-in-law Arthur; or whether Edmund, who had been fairly well treated by the king, but had taken offence at a humiliation which he had, so far as it was real, brought upon himself, acted on mere impulse and carried his brother with him, we cannot decide;—they fled together to their aunt Margaret and constituted the dynastic bugbear for the rest of the reign. It was not the first escapade. Edmund had been indicted for murder in 1498; he had been pardoned, but notwithstanding had run away to Flanders. He had, however, then returned, apologised, and been received into favour. Just before the celebration of the marriage of Arthur he made this second flight; on the invitation of Maximilian, who was engaged in one of his unaccountable intrigues, he went from Flanders and joined him in Tyrol; the emperor offering to put him at the head of a large force to secure his rights, but really playing him as a card in his diplomatic game with Henry and Ferdinand. In 1502 he was planning an invasion of England to start from Denmark, and was implicated in the attempt on Guisnes which brought Sir James Tyrrell to the block. The same year Henry, by promising Maximilian 10,000 marks for his war against the Turks, prevailed on him to expel the English malcontents, whilst Ferdinand and Isabella as well as Lewis XII joined in urging the proscription. Edmund fled then to the Count Palatine, and in 1504, venturing into Guelders, was taken prisoner by the duke. The same year he was attainted with fifty-two of his adherents. The next year the duke gave him up to the Archduke Philip, under whose care he made some very brave show of claims against Henry VII for the estates and dignities of his father. Unfortunately for him, when the archduke, in 1506, was forced by the weather to land in England, Henry made a point with him that Edmund should be surrendered. Philip, who like his father was quite equal to playing a game of the sort that Henry loved, was on this occasion at the mercy of his host. He promised to surrender the prisoner on the strict understanding that his life should be spared. He was surrendered and his life was spared, so long as Henry VII lived. He came to the Tower in March 1506. In 1513 he was beheaded by Henry VIII. According to Lord Herbert, Henry VII had left it in charge to his son that, although he had sworn not to execute him, his successor should and would be wise to do it. Whether or no this is true, Henry VIII's cruelty was no doubt stimulated by finding Richard De la Pole, the younger brother, fighting in the army of France against him. Richard continued to be a thorn in the side of England—the White Rose of York as he was called—until in 1525 he was killed fighting for Francis I at Pavia.
Margaret of Burgundy lived until 1503, but her power and wealth as well as her zeal had diminished, and after the failure of Perkin she had been almost innocuous. This finishes the dynastic complications of the reign of Henry VII. In the next lecture I shall devote myself chiefly to the constitutional points of importance in connexion with domestic and foreign history.